Posts Tagged ‘Farel Dalrymple’

Revisiting the 2009 TCAF Mainstream/Alternative Comics Panel


Sunday, October 4, 2009

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Robin at Inkstuds was kind enough to have the TCAF panel Frank, Robin, Robert Dayton, Dustin Harbin and I participated in transcribed by Squally Showers. He sent me the transcription a few weeks ago and I finally got around to reading it.

Frankly, I thought this panel sucked, due to nobody in particular’s fault. But I think most panels are meandering and boring despite having intelligent moderators and participants. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, I’m just going to excerpt sections of it here and intersperse it with some new commentary.

I wasn’t sure what the point of the panel was and, reading the transcription now, I don’t think anybody knew what the point was. If the point was to hear Frank speak enthusiastically about Kirby and Steranko, it succeeded and that’s definitely an enjoyable, worthy reason to attend a panel. No joke.

But I fear that the panel was interpreted as a statement that “alternative” cartoonists having affection for “mainstream” comics is noteworthy or unusual or “new” somehow. It’s not. “Alternative” cartoonists bemoaning the abundance of boring, mundane mostly-autobio work is a false feeling to me. There are a lot of autobio “real life” stories, but they’ve always been dwarfed by the pseudo-“mainstream” genre work, even outside of Marvel and DC. Look at Oni Press and Slave Labor Graphics and Antarctic Press and Caliber Comics and Tundra and on and on. Look at the Hernandez Brothers. Look at the wave of alternative comics in the nineties… Zot (which somehow looks both really dated and also pre-Tezuka reprint boom ahead-of-its-time), Bone, Kabuki (don’t forget that Scarab spin-off series!), Madman, THB (fucking Escapo! still lookin good a decade later,) etc.

When I was a student at SVA in the early ’00s I was mostly hanging out with the Meathaus guys and almost all of them were doing “alternative” sci-fi/fantasy/horror/whatever genre comics. Some later did more “alternative”-leaning books for DC or Vertigo. Tomer Hanuka did Bipolar (the last issue of which was essentially a Bizzaro World Aquaman story) and later did the Midnight Mass covers for Vertigo. And, of course, Farel Dalrymple did the great Omega Man the Unknown series after doing his solo, surreal Pop Gun War series that, aesthetically, is in the post-Marvel House Style world similar to Jim Rugg (Street Angel from Slave Labor). Even Thomas Herpich’s (who I adore) second book was mostly science fiction short stories. Meanwhile the amerimanga artists at Tokyopop and Oni were doing sci-fi/romance/fantasy comics.

There’s been wave after wave of “alternative” comics with ties to “mainstream” comics from the ’80s to today, unaffected by some horrible glut of boring real-life comics that people complain about. I’m not saying that those books don’t exist (they do). I’m saying that I don’t think there’s been a point where one genre was threatening to extinguish the other.

Frank Santoro: Is everyone … I’m going to talk as if everybody knows what I‘m talking about. If you don’t know what I‘m talking about, please interject at any time. But basically, it’s like Kirby of course created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, but then in the ‘70s, when he went back to Marvel, he was doing these really crazy books like 2001, which was essentially based on the movie. But by issue 5 it had nothing to do with the movie. [laughter] What’s really interesting about this comic is … can you scroll ahead a couple of things … it starts off as this crazy battle and—couple of more?—and he goes to The Source which is, if you remember 2001, the black monolith. I call it The Source. [Robin laughs] Can you scroll ahead one more time? He’s coming out of this battle—one more, one more—and then it’s just like it’s all—keep going one more, a little more, a little more. [murmurs of dissent.] Where’s the locker room?

Robin McConnell: Oh, it didn’t make it in.

Frank: Oh bummer. Well, anyway, it’s like a game. It’s basically like, was it Heroesville?

Dash Shaw: Comicsville.

Frank: Comicsville. So it’s like a game. It’s like a virtual reality game. So this whole episode in the beginning is just this game but it’s like to me, it was this treatise on Kirby’s idea of what being a hero is or was. It’s a game. It’s like a sport. I think it was transparent about what all his comics are about. To me, this particular comic wraps it all up, I horde this comic whenever I see it in the bargain bins. A lot of people don’t like this late style, but I think this is the kind of style that I think is carrying on. It’s still, I think, very fresh. It’s not like his old stuff. It’s really different. I think it’s really ahead of the curve and I’m running out of steam.

Robin: When did this come out in comparison to the New Gods stuff?

Frank: This was after the New Gods stuff. So this is post-DC. He got canned from DC. All of his DC books got canceled. Then he went back to Marvel. This was around the time he was doing The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, the Captain America/Black Panther stuff. Anybody who read that Captain America—Madbomb, those issues. Those are really great. Anybody else want to riff on [inaudible, 2:47]

Robert Dayton: You know what I find really interesting about his 2001 stuff is it’s almost like a mantra. You buy every issue and as a kid you probably feel ripped off, because every issue goes exactly the same. At the end of the issue, a caveman or someone back in time, meets the monolith. The End. Next issue: Same thing. It’s almost like reading Gerald Jablonski’s comics. It becomes like a mantra. It’s just repetition. It’s kind of fascinating reading each and every issue, because even the series, like basically he did a Treasury edition of 2001.

Dash: Yeah, it’s insane.

Robert: Which is insane. It’s massive. It’s huge. It’s gorgeous.

Frank: It’s beautiful. You know those oversized treasuries? Remember those things from the ‘70s? It’s an adaptation of the movie, right?

Robert: Yeah.

Frank: But it’s totally different. It’s Kirby-style. It makes no sense.

Dash: He got some production stills from the movie that you can see that he directly swiped from.

Frank: Yeah!

Dash: And then he just connected it with like just Kirby stuff.

Frank: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Robert: And Kirby was such a collage artist, too. So in the Treasury edition, there’s all these crazy collages.

Dash: The sequence right after this where it moves into the reality is really nice, too, because the reality turns out to not … I don’t know if …

Frank: Yeah, well see, he’s playing this game.

Dash: This isn’t real. Like sometimes when I …

Frank: Like self-heat chicken dinner? He lives in this giant apartment complex and then it’s just this thing. It’s Mountain Air.

Dash: But that beach scene isn’t real.

Frank: So it’s all Matrix! It’s like Matrix. It’s all … but like pre- … whatever, go ahead. [laughter] Go ahead. Go ahead.

Dash: I was going to say when you flip through a lot of these comics, my first reaction is these are way too wordy. I don’t know. Do you have that feeling?

Robin: They’re wordy, but …

Dash: But then in this sequence, you flip through it and you think that “This is actually real,” but all of the text is about how none of this, “This isn’t a real seascape” and everything like that. It’s a juxtaposition.

Robin: Do you find this is one of the more Kirby doing a better job of mixing the two.

Dash: Well, he wrote these, too.

Robin: Yeah, but that’s what I’m saying. Sometimes the story isn’t as strong as the art.

Frank: Well, I think the story is equally as strong as the art. I mean … go ahead.

Dash: Well, I don’t think he would do this the Marvel style if he was doing it for himself. Right?

Frank: Right.

Dustin Harbin: I would have thought with the wordiness that this was in the Marvel style. Because the story looks so clear with that page layout and then all these words were kind of scotch taped on top of it. Which is kind of the Marvel style …

Frank: Well, he wrote, all of Kirby’s stuff, you look at the originals in like the Kirby Collector or whatever, all of his stuff, he has all of the dialogue written in the sides or the back and then Stan or whomever just kind of cleaned it up a little bit. So I think that he’s still doing it in that style, in that way, because I think Mike Royer edited these also, so he helped clean them up. But for me, this was a real gateway comic—just to go back to the main thrust of the panel. It’s like, I was really into Kirby but this was way out there. I didn’t like his ‘70s style. I thought it was really wack and I hated it for a long time. It took me a long time to get into it. But to me, this starts heading into this alternate world. I don’t want to say alternative comics, but it’s just so different from what he had been doing for the 20 years previous that, like I feel like this is what ends up influencing the current generation. So …

It’s hard to read this and not think of Mazzucchelli, both since Asterios Polyp came out recently and he’s one of the kings of the “mainstream”/”alternative” fusion artists. Polyp has some stellar examples of this. My favorite sequence in the book is when Polyp, the “paper architect,” builds a tree house. I told Mazz I loved this scene and he said: “Kirby.”

Or how about this Steranko-esque film still-like panel of Asterios and Hana at the beach, pausing in silhouette, below. I like the melodrama of it. It’s ballsy.

Frank: The Escape Artist. Yeah, so Steranko, after Kirby—Kirby was a big deal in the ’60s, but then in the late ‘60s, there was this guy who was really kind of like the new regime was Jim Steranko, James Steranko. He took Kirby’s style and made it really design-y and really modern.

Robin: Deco pop, almost.

Frank: Deco pop is a good way of describing it. This particular story on the right, this is Bernie Krigstein from the late ‘50s and this is a Steranko story from the early ‘70s and a horror comic from Marvel. Can we click ahead one? And you can see he’s doing all these really wacky layouts and stuff like that. It’s not very … like this face is very Kirby to me and a lot of the figures are very Kirby, but as Dash likes to point out if you think Kirby’s anatomy is messed up, Steranko’s is even more messed up. He’s just doing it. So a lot of these figures are really cut-out figures and stuff. But he’s doing a lot of things with time that hearken back to what Krigstein was doing in the ‘50s.

Dash: The Krigstein comic is “The Master Race,” that Spiegelman likes so much to talk about. He did an article in The New Yorker about it.

Robin: Yeah. I think he first did an essay back in [inaudible, 11:14]

Frank: See, this is the subway going by and all the figures going by fast. He’s breaking up the time like way differently. I mean, this is ’59 …

Robin: This is earlier than that.

Frank: Really?

Dash: I want to hear Frank … you called this cinematic before, those panels. I’ve heard that used a lot. I don’t know if you used it.

Frank: Did I say that?

Dash: Why do you think people call those kind of panels, tall …

Frank: Oh, the tall panels. Because it breaks up the time differently. I think it’s a way of like Kirby is all about it’s not instantaneous moment to moment. It’s more like every ten seconds or something. You see the punch, then you see the reaction. But he’s doing every … this is like five seconds or whatever. This is like an instantaneous thing. Cinematic … I think so, but it’s just more like … Steranko’s cinematic in the sense of his framing, I think. His framing is way more …

Dash: If you scrolled, those long horizontal things like this.

Frank: Oh this. Yeah. Well, I think that’s cinematic because in the late ‘60s, everybody went panorama in the ‘60s, so it’s like your eye, I think, is going across these panels.

Robin: It’s kind of like the whole Orson Welles …

Frank: Deep focus.

Robin: That long …

Robert: The pan. You know what I was thinking? I was looking at these and speaking of cinematic, I was really thinking that Steranko’s a lot like Brian De Palma. That’s because both De Palma and both Steranko, for a lot of reasons, actually, they both use a lot of genre tropes. Like this is an old dark house kind of story. Also, De Palma would always make you conscious that you were watching a film and I think Steranko makes you really conscious that you were reading a comic. That’s what the framing—I mean, De Palma would use a lot of split screen and you see the way things are divided up here. Also, the way that they acknowledged the old masters: Steranko acknowledging Krigstein and Kirby and De Palma acknowledging Hitchcock, most especially.

Something that Jeet Heer touched on previously on CC, and was also asked at the TCAF panel, was how necessary it is for readers to track or be interested in artist’s influences.

Audience member: [inaudible, 45:45-] I mean, there is value to knowing stuff. It’s okay, but if you just want pleasure and it doesn’t matter to you and you’re getting the pleasure and something’s hitting the pleasure button and you don’t know that it’s just a third generation knockoff, then it’s okay. At the same time, if you want to be an informed reader … [continues]

Dash: I think if you’re coming to this panel, you want to be an informed reader.

Audience member: … reading the best work …

Robin: The main thing is you enjoy comics. Let’s see what that person enjoyed.

Robert: If you like this, you might like this.

Robin: That’s exactly it. Without being commercial thing like DC’s, “You like Watchmen, here’s the next thing to read.” You like Brandon Graham? Read Moebius, you’ll love it if you haven’t read Moebius. That’s kind of the conduct of people who love this stuff and reading it is rather important. There are so many comics to read, and people don’t really know that. And good luck at finding this stuff for an affordable except for the horrible Incal reprints that are re-colored.

Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary for readers to be informed about this stuff. It’s only of interest to people who care. But, I think the big “trickle down” effect IS interesting. I care. Not for an “I know who’s ripping off of who! Ha ha!” annoying reason, but because it’s telling a wider story about the psychology of artists. If you’re someone who’s interested in that, it’s worth tracking what was coming out when, or who was reading what when, because the “trickle down” effect over time is more exciting, to me, than holding a romantic belief that everyone’s working in a vacuum devoid of influences. All of the artists struggling to reach that “vacuum”/influence-less state are revealing in their own way.

Obviously, I don’t think people should feel that artists are handed a menu of what came before them and starting ordering things (“I’ll have a little bit of Kirby sprinkled with Sol Lewitt, please”), and I don’t think people should feel artists are necessarily having a conversation with other artists exclusively (“Ware did this, so I went the other way.”) The motivations are a tangled web encompassing a million things. It’s the whole psychology of the person. If you’re happy never reaching a conclusion, just bouncing around reading comics history or whatever, then it’s a journey worth making. Or at least a panel worth attending.

Huge thanks to Robin again and Squally Showers, Robert Dayton, Dustin Harbin and Frank.

Here’s a random Gray Morrow Edge of Chaos spread, because it rules. Show n tell.

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Marker Removed?


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

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I went to the Omega the Unknown event at Rocketship last week to see co-creators Jonathan Lethem, Farel Dalrymple, Paul Hornschemeier, Karl Rusnak, and Gary Panter talk about the series. I was feeling a little under the weather, and the store was packed, so I didn’t stay long, but I did get a chance to briefly ask Lethem about the whole Rusnak/Kansur thing I pointed out a million internet years ago, and then expanded on a few thousand years later. Suffice it to say I didn’t get a very mind-blowing answer — if I recall correctly, Lethem called it “pretty obvious, huh?” and then went on to say that “Kansur” was Rusnak’s old graffiti tag, and that, sort of like how Charlie Brown always wanted to be called “Flash”, Rusnak used to wish his first name was “Rex”. Anyway, as this doesn’t exactly provide evidence for my “grand theories” (though it doesn’t necessarily contradict them!), I probably shouldn’t mention it, but due to my irreproachable personal honor code, I felt compelled to publicize it here. (That link is like my favorite political commercial of all time, by the way.)

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Cage Match #1: Omega the Unknown (2007)


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

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It may not seem like it, but the three of us here at Comics Comics are hardly monolithic in our tastes. In order to prove it, we’ve decided to introduce something which may or may not become a recurring feature here: a way to present no-holds-barred arguments about comics and comics-related issues about which we don’t quite see eye to eye. First up: The new version of Omega the Unknown, written by Jonathan Lethem and Karl Rusnak, and drawn by Farel Dalrymple. Rules: I’ll put up some thoughts, and sometime in the near future, Frank will add his. We’ll keep going until it feels like we’re done. Oh, and Dan, feel free to jump in at any point if you want to, whether you want to take a side, egg us on, act as an impartial referee, or sucker-bash one of us on the back of the head with a metal folding chair. Readers are welcome to throw tomatoes at us through the bars in the comments. (Oh, and if you haven’t read the series yet and don’t like spoilers, you may want to skip this one.)


TIM: I’ll start by saying that I like this series a lot more here at the issue 3 mark than I did when I’d only read the first issue. As I wrote at the time, I was initially unsure whether or not Dalrymple’s art was really appropriate for the story, and compared it unfavorably to the surreal effect achieved in the original through the juxtaposition of Steve Gerber & Mary Skrenes’s bizarre plot with Jim Mooney‘s almost generic superhero pencils. Since that time, Dalrymple’s style has really grown on me, and as Lethem & Rusnak’s script has started to diverge from the 1970s original (the first issue, aside from the Mink storyline, was nearly a beat-by-beat remake) and the story’s themes have become more clear, it’s started to seem like an inspired choice to me. Don’t get me wrong, despite a lot of beautiful pages, I still think you find the occasional sloppy or half-assed composition, but overall, I’m really liking it. And the series has begun to achieve its own kind of surreal tone, different from the original, but nearly as effective: I like the quiet atmosphere of it all, the way a horrific image like a severed-finger-topped fast-food burger almost reads subliminally, without being turned into some overblown two-page spread. But I know you have some problems with the art, Frank, so before I go on, why don’t I give you a chance to pile in?

FRANK: I actually really like this comic, too, but I have one big problem with it, so my comments are kind of “tough love.” Here goes: The everyday scenes are impeccable. Everything about the staging and narrative flow, in each issue so far, is excellent until the action begins. Take this page from #2 as an example. It is, essentially, the only action sequence in the issue. The sequence begins from the POV of the main character, who sees the action unfolding on the street below from his window. The everyday scenes of daily life have been interrupted by the FANTASTIC. There is a moment of tension; the view of Omega doing away with two robots seems “correct” in tone. Here is this fantastic event unfolding in front of the character’s deadpan gaze, but it’s still completely “everyday” in tone. Then, when the POV switches back to the action outside, there seems to be little or no tension between the FANTASTIC and the EVERYDAY.

The page is all too flat. I don’t expect it to look like a normal Marvel comic with extreme camera angles and speed lines, but I do expect it to convey a sense of something bigger than life. And in the context of this issue, the two pages of action pale in comparison to the attention to detail and nuance in the EVERYDAY scenes. This may be a strategic move on Lethem and Dalrymple’s part to downplay the action and weave it tighter to the everyday, I don’t know. If the way that action and “the fantastic” are meant to be portrayed in a muted fashion is intentional, then they’ve succeeded. But my guess is that it isn’t intentional. I’m sorry, it just comes off like, like … a Vertigo comic.

DAN: Well, thanks for letting me know, you guys! Jeez, what does a guy have to do around here to feel included? Well, I’ll fight through the emotional pain and attempt a brief response now followed by a lengthier one tomorrow after I’ve re-read the comics. Overall, I’ve found the series compelling and very well executed. The quiet, static fight scenes work for me because they help maintain the focus on characters. That is, it’s almost like the fights are surreally incidental to the main person-to-person action. I’m waiting for Lethem to reveal that they’re not really happening at all. Though that would be too easy. Seems to me that Farel has come up with some rather remarkable here — using Frank Miller-style comic book drawing to delineate place and character in a way that, well, Miller hasn’t done in 20-plus years. And the characters are wonderful. Unlike so many comics that substitute tough talk and snappy dialogue for real characterization, Omega is giving us fully formed, sympathetic protagonists that I find myself invested in. Plus, it’s genuinely suspenseful in the “I don’t know what is going to happen next” kinda way. Lethem is writing discreet comic book units that have their own narrative arcs while building in, I suspect, devices that will become important in later issues. That’s my take on it for now. Who’s next?

TIM: Huh. I could’ve sworn both of you guys disliked this book, but I guess I misunderstood. Our first cage match may not end up being a particularly vicious one. Anyway, there’s still some stuff I disagree with you both about, but I think I’m going to need access to a scanner for my response, so I’m out until later tonight.

DAN: It’s a cage love fest! Tim, stop trying to get us in trouble.

FRANK: The action scenes “help maintain the focus on character”? What does that mean? For me, they’re too much in line with how everything else is delineated. There’s no TENSION, despite its focus on character, as you put it Dan. What I mean by tension is that Omega himself, the title character, is easily the least defined (which of course may be on purpose). However, the character “The Mink” has a much larger “larger than life” appearance, regardless of whether or not it’s supposed to be his media shtick. Anyone following me? Omega, to me, should have a PRESENCE, and the way he’s drawn doesn’t give me that feeling.

TIM: Well, maybe I won’t wait until I have access to a scanner before replying after all. I’ll just hope I’m remembering the comic correctly, and post the images later if I am. [UPDATE: I wasn’t, at least not exactly, and the following is slightly revised.]

First, I think what you’re talking about is exactly right, Frank. There is little to no effort made in the art to draw a distinction between the fantastic and the mundane. Where I disagree with you is that I think that effect is entirely intentional, and ironically, I had originally planned on using exactly the sequence you point out to say so. The way we are introduced to the fight makes this pretty clear, I think. A few pages earlier than the one you uploaded earlier, we see Alex, the kid protagonist, having a discussion with his roommate while he looks out the window. He sees something, but we don’t know what…

…until we get to the next tier on the page, which looks exactly like a normal New York apartment scene, if you don’t notice the small figures battling down on the street outside.

You’d think the reaction to seeing this pretty crazy fight between a superhero and a bunch of robots in the middle of the street would provoke a strong reaction in Alex, but it doesn’t. Instead, he seems almost annoyed.

On the next page, he still doesn’t seem anxious, and doesn’t even bother mentioning the fight to his roommate, but simply walks to a different room to continue his conversation. To me, it seems like this sequence of panels is intended not only to draw attention to Alex’s lack of reaction, but also to highlight exactly the lack of tension you sense — which paradoxically, creates an entirely different kind of narrative tension: why isn’t he reacting the way we’d expect him to? And it’s not just Alex, either. The fight continues outside, and the Mink ends up getting into the action, but the streets don’t erupt into panic. The authorities and a news van arrive, but everyone behaves basically like this is business as usual, just another day in Marvel Manhattan. This approach is more or less the direct opposite of the one used in the well-known scene from Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again where the Avengers make a very memorable brief appearance, appearing almost like gods, and striking awe and fear in all who behold them. In fact, Miller’s text explicitly draws attention to their god-like natures. In Lethem’s Omega version of the Marvel universe, however, a fight between super-powered beings and robots is itself an everyday experience, no more impressive than any other story you might see any weekday on the local evening news.

I also take your point about the character of Omega himself — he’s a total blank, with almost no dramatic presence at all. Some of this comes from the original, where Omega was also more or less a mute cypher, but in Mooney’s original drawings, Omega was still an impressive physical force. Dalrymple draws him so that he looks like nothing more than an ordinary, beefy guy in tights. Again, I think this is intentional.

At this point, I start getting into conjecture, but one of the main themes of the book seems to be the relationship between children and superheroes. Obviously we have the Alex (Alpha?)/Omega relationship, but I think there’s also something going on here with the Mink. As I pointed out before, the Mink’s civilian name, Mr. Kansur, is Omega co-writer Karl Rusnak’s surname spelled backwards. We know that Rusnak and Lethem were childhood best friends, and shared a passion for talking and arguing about Marvel comics. (Lethem in a 2003 interview: “[Karl] and I shared a lot of these fascinations. Particularly Marvel Comics. He and I read them together very avidly.”) Now here’s where the speculation starts: doesn’t the Mink seem a lot like the kind of superhero a kid would come up with as a comic-book-obsessed child growing up in New York? You’ve got the weird, sort-of-lame animal-related alter ego, the connection with your own name (Kansur/Rusnak), unlimited financial resources, the secret hideout complete with labyrinth on a small, deserted island off of Manhattan — I don’t know, it all seems to fit to me. In any case, my point is that mirroring the Alex/Omega child/superhero relationship, we get the Rusnak/Kansur child/superhero relationship. The “good” superhero is basically an unimpressive blank canvas, and the “bad” superhero is a media-savvy, greedy, manipulative guy with only his own interests at heart: the cynical version of what a childish ideal might really be like in the adult world. It’s too soon to say where it’s all going, but if I’m right, I think the comparison is telling.

Anyway, you’re still right, Frank: the action sequences are quiet and lack tension. It will be interesting to see if at any point in the series, they go for one of those god-like Frank Miller Avengers moments — I’m betting that if it happens at all, it won’t be until closer to the end of the series. I also think it will be interesting to see how they end up integrating Gary Panter‘s guest art in upcoming issues — I don’t know if he could draw an undynamic fight scene if he tried.

FRANK: It’s not fair to compare a remake with the original but what can I do? I’m familiar enough with the original series that I can’t help but look at the new Omega and compare. The TENSION between the everyday and the fantastic that I wrote of earlier is there in the original but not so much in the new series. I wish that I could accept the way Omega is depicted in the current series, but I’m having a hard time with it.

You may be right, Tim, that Lethem and Dalrymple are intentionally “grounding” Omega and making him more of a blank slate for the reader (and Alex) to project upon. It’s working apparently. But my difficulty with it is that in the original series Gerber and Mooney played off of the conventions of the Marvel universe. The school scenes in the original seem so different from the battles Omega is fighting — in tone and in execution. For a Marvel comic in the ’70s, this was a pretty forward-thinking take on the way the public interacted with heroes. The current series levels the playing field and Omega’s presence is diminished, both literally and figuratively. In the original series, by issue three Omega had already fought the Hulk and Electro. (God, I can’t believe I’m writing this…) The current series may be just as refreshing a take as the original, but, man I just wish Lethem and co. would take advantage of this narrative device, this tension.

And as far as Miller’s depiction of the Avengers in Daredevil: Born Again — that’s a perfect illustration of what I expected. I expected Omega to be depicted as a “god” and for his PRESENCE to be felt, not ignored. Maybe in Lethem’s New York, a guy in a costume like that goes unnoticed, but I don’t buy it really. It feels off-type. But again, maybe it is intentional. I just don’t like it. And it’s the only thing keeping me from really loving this comic book.

Who knows? Once Omega and Alex “unite” all the pieces may come together.

DAN: I think Tim has provided the most insightful commentary here. His speculation, whether it pans out or not, gives a really fascinating grounding for the whole saga, and makes me really eager to read and decipher more. One last thing: Re-reading the issues last night I tripped over an odd subplot that I’m quite excited about: objects attaching themselves to human flesh. Happens with the book in issue 2 and then again with the gold chain in issue 3. Hmmm. These are rich, rewarding comic books.

FRANK: I’m “tapping out” on the submission hold.

TIM: Okay. I guess it looks like we’re winding down here. Obviously, being only three issues into a ten-issue miniseries makes it difficult to say anything for certain. It could be all downhill from here, and what look like promising developments could turn out to be red herrings, false leads, or massive mistakes. And I also want to say that your last point is an important one, Frank: just because an artist intends a certain effect doesn’t necessarily mean we have to like it. It could still be a bad decision, whether or not it’s an intentional one.

This was fun. We’ll have to do it again. Only one rule infraction that I’m aware of, when Frank briefly fled the cage for the safety of the comments pit. If anyone has any ideas for future Cage Match topics, please e-mail us or leave a suggestion in the comments if you’d like.

I don’t think there’s any obvious decision that can be called here, but clearly we are all losers.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

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I’m probably not going to write anything extensive about Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple‘s new Omega the Unknown miniseries until the whole thing gets published, but here’s a post just to note that the first issue is out. (For those who want a more thorough review, Jog has written a good one.)

I’ll limit my remarks to these:

1) It’s nice enough, but I’m not sure if Dalrymple’s art really works for this story. Jim Mooney‘s fairly generic ’70s superhero art in the original series really effectively set the tone, and pumped up the creepy “what’s happened to the Marvel editors?” factor a great deal. Dalrymple’s drawings, on the other hand, are too weird on their own to create that clash of expectations. Still, it’s way too soon to say anything definitive, and I’m not sure exactly where this story’s going yet. It may work in the end. And it’s nice to see Marvel experimenting art-wise in any case.

2) I think it’s funny how many of the online reviews of this comic have mentioned the literary tone of the dialogue, and attributed it to Lethem’s background as a novelist. It’s funny because that aspect of the new comic comes pretty much directly from the Steve Gerber & Mary Skrenes original.

3) So far, the new Omega is following the original plot very closely. Only a subplot featuring a mysterious superhero called the Mink (civilian name: Mr. Kansur) is new. His part in all this remains to be seen, but considering that the comic credits the script to Lethem and “Karl Rusnak” (hey, that’s “Kansur” backwards!) I imagine that’s where a lot of the action will be.

UPDATE: Using my crack journalistic skills, I’ve learned that Rusnak is a real person (and Lethem’s best friend from childhood). Still, my Sherlock sense is still telling me that that name’s a clue!

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